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David Grewcock

Review: You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews

You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews Spanning eight decades of Broadway hits, You Won’t Succeed celebrates the Jewish contribution to musical theatre. Led by a strong cast of singers and perky dancers, we’re taken from the 1920’s to present day with the evening playing out more as cabaret than full blown musical production.

As if we needed telling, the slightly unimaginative narration reminds us that the Great White Way wouldn’t be so great without the now legendary works of George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein to mention but a few. The true delights, and perhaps surprising offerings come from more recent years with composers such as William Finn, Alan Menken and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul getting a look in.

Subtlety has been shelved in favour of a more light hearted tone which is in fact where the evening thrives. Tradition, the Act 1 closer shows off the casts impressive vocals with just the right amount of chutzpah whilst William Finn’s genius Four Jews In a Room stands out as a true high point.

These are songs that can’t just be sung, they have to be lived and there can be no better example of this than when Jackie Marks, the first British Fantine when Les Miserables transferred to the West End returns to sing I Dreamed a Dream. Along with John Barr’s version of A House is Not a Home it elevates the show to a touching, albeit rarely achieved, level of emotion.

The predominantly youthful cast excel in the second half of the show, when we’re treated to songs from Godspell, Parade, and Smash. Here, the impressive pop voices of Lloyd Daniels and David Albury are allowed to soar and Sarah Earnshaw gives a powerhouse performance of One Night Only.

New arrangements by Inga Davis-Rutter are one of the highlights of the evening, played flawlessly by Davis-Rutter and her 6 strong band. She gives new life to All Good Gifts and makes great use of the men’s voices in Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.

As Liza Minelli said of Kander and Ebb’s music, “When you sing their songs, you just feel better” and the same can be said of tonight. Hearing these classic songs really does lift your spirits and you can’t help but be swept up by the titular finale, “lovingly ripped off” from Spamalot.

Song and dance lovers keen for a vibrant musical retrospective, will find much to enjoy

If you’re expecting Broadway polish, then this isn’t for you but song and dance lovers keen for a vibrant musical retrospective, will find much to enjoy. And short of giving each audience member their own fiddle and transposing the action to the roof of the St James Theatre, there perhaps is no bolder celebration of the Jewish contribution to musical theatre.